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Watching Armageddon Repeatedly Helped Itagaki Reignite His Passion For Game Development

by Matt Bertz on Feb 09, 2012 at 09:20 AM

In his "What We Talk About When We Talk About Games" presentation at the D.I.C.E. summit in Las Vegas, Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden creator Tomonobu Itagaki shed light on a dark period in his career where he almost abandoned game development entirely.

On the eve of the PlayStation 2 launch, Tecmo requested that Team Ninja develop Dead or Alive 2 for a launch title. The only catch was the team had only two and a half months to port it from the arcade. Rather than complain about taking on such an unrealistic development schedule, Itagaki says his team "fought for victory with all their energy." When a Tecmo sales general manager asked Itagaki for an unfinished build of the game, he had no idea the guy would take it to a factory to start the manufacturing process on such an unpolished version.

Shocked and dejected, Itagaki stopped going to work and stayed at home for nearly four months. He spent his days drinking heavily, listening to Aerosmith's "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing," and watching Michael Bay's Armageddon on repeat with his three-year-old daughter on his lap until she couldn't take watching the movie anymore. When he asked why she was sick of watching one of his favorite movies, she said "This is the movie where daddy dies. I don't want to see such a movie anymore," referring to Bruce Willis' character Henry Stamper.

At this point Itagaki realized he needed to break out of this spiral of depression and get back to doing what he does best – making video games. "I knew what I should do," he said. "I'm a man who fights, from the birth to the breakdown and hiding. It was not the time to cry. I had to fight for my family and my friends, so I made up my mind and went back to the workplace as a developer."

Itagaki returned to Tecmo to release Dead or Alive 2 Hardcore, the definitive version of the game. He concluded, "No matter what anyone says, Aerosmith and Armageddon were the ones who saved my life, my company, my friends, and my family.”

Now working with THQ with his new team at Valhalla Studios, Itagaki's new title, Devil's Third, is tentatively scheduled for a 2013 release.